COMPANIES & FINANCE UK: BT steals a march with wireless Lan
Financial Times; Apr 10, 2002
By ROBERT BUDDEN
BT Group will today unveil plans to roll out a series of wireless local area networks across the country providing business users, and eventually residential customers, with high speed links to the internet and the computer networks of companies.
The telecoms operator is in advanced discussions with numerous companies to provide wireless Lan at more than 4,000 "hot spot" locations, including airports, train stations, hotels and cafes, by June 2005.
Wireless Lan allows users to access the internet or their company's computer network without the need for wires or cables.
Costa Coffee, the coffee shop chain, and Welcome Break, the motorway services group, are both talking to BT.
This will allow users to log into their company's computer network at any of these locations.
The move comes weeks ahead of an announcement from the Radio Communications Agency, the regulator for all radio spectrum, which is expected to allow companies to use the spectrum reserved for wireless Lan for commercial gain.
BT initially plans to target businesses offering them wireless Lan capabilities in their office, as well as to employees on the move.
But the group is also expected to announce a wireless Lan package aimed at the residential market later in the year.
By June 2003 BT is expected to have 400 wireless Lan hot spots at key locations across the UK.
BT is understood to be offering access at 2 megabits a second, more than thirty times faster than most dial-up modems and about five times faster than the anticipated data speeds of third generation mobile phone services.
Analysts said BT's anticipated announcement indicated it had stolen a march on mobile phone operators, a number of whom are thought to be interested in rolling out their own wireless Lan network.
"This will be highly useful for BT in tying in corporate customers offering them a whole suite of mobility data applications," said Jason Chapman, at Gartner, the technology research house.
"Wireless Lan is not going to replace 3G or fixed home connections but it does have a major role to play in the wireless space."
The initiative is part of plans by Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail, to raise revenues at the group's fixed line business by 3 per cent a year.
Mr Danon has pledged to bring in Pounds 180m of extra revenue from mobility services annually by 2005.
Total costs of rolling out wireless Lan in the first year are understood to be less than Pounds 10m.
BT will also today outline plans to re-enter the business mobile phone market through a tie-up with MMO, the unit it spun off last year, offering e-mail and voice services.